Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Might as well start off semi-controversial

Most people probably don't have "deep thoughts" while picking up dog poop. But then again, most people do not own English Mastiffs - these 200lb. dogs manufacture enough dung in a day to keep a man on Poop Patrol occupied long enough to zone out ... into "deep thought" territory. (Or maybe it's the extended lack of oxygen? - holding your breath during Poop Patrol is mandatory.)

The semi-controversial thought is not original, even if it is under-reported. And really, it's "semi-controversial" as much because it sounds like heresy from a PR guy as it is controversial because it may just be true.

CNN wrecked democracy. Maybe the world.

The 24-hour news cycle spawned a voracious appetite for news-for-news'-sake. Frankly there is not enough news to fill a 24x7 time slot, so the standards for what constitutes news have coarsened. Combine this cheap-news paradigm with the (wholly appropriate) need for profits and lo! - we find ourselves grumbling about the tawdriness of America's celebrity-obsessed culture. (Insert gratuitous celebrity pic here.)

While you'd think that the 24-hour news cycle has done good things for democracy, really it is the opposite: Karl Rove's cynical supposition that pictures matter to distracted Americans more than words (or truth) is what led to every Bush speech being juxtaposed by thematic wallpaper in the background. I bring this up just to point out that the politicians have figured out that the barrage of images we are subjected to calls for clever ways of being more impactful (even while they dedicate themselves to being as non-controversial as possible).

Most troubling about the so-called CNN effect has been its impact on policymaking. Not only must Washington make decisions more quickly and with less nuance - in order to stay ahead of the 24-hour news channels' chatterati - but, they also rely on the insta-polling that follows every hot new topic and controversial video footage to figure out their position. This is well-documented and admitted by elder statesmen and their consigliores.

Lastly I need to address this as "PR-Guy."

Forget everything I just said. CNN rules! We in the PR world are certainly happy to help the hungry news nets fill up their schedules with our clients' news. Lord knows there's nothing like a camera crew rolling up on the HQ's front lawn to puff up a client CEO's ego.

"Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good" - Emerson.


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